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The Moody Blues - In Search of the Lost Chord CD (album) cover

IN SEARCH OF THE LOST CHORD

The Moody Blues

 

Crossover Prog

3.81 | 262 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars The second of the ‘big 5’ from the Moody Blues is the one without a full orchestra, the band preferring to generate their own sounds. It was ambitious for a young group of musicians, and they do a pretty good job. This is the toking album – just don’t take it too seriously.

“Ride My See-Saw” is such an awesome tune! This album came out at the highest peak of the rather brief psychedelic heyday, and it’s kind of funny today that this is considered a progressive album, because at the time it would have fallen into the same category as a J-Lo album in 1999 – completely intended as a mass-appeal work of the currently popular sound. I find it hilarious that even with this the Moodies couldn’t pull off a proper spacey tune. The pulsating guitar riffs, simple rhythm, and meaningless, tripped-out vocals work well enough as a flower-power song, but the distinct Moodies harmonizing and ever-so-faint flute give this away as something a bit higher-brow than your average hippy anthem. This is really a good song.

Same goes for “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”. The vocals and drums here are a bit closer to the Byrds or Procol Harum, but once again the vocals and supporting instrumentation set this song apart. I gather the lyrics are supposed to be something like a tongue-in- cheek Yellow Submarine kind of thing, but frankly that’s unimportant anyway – this one is just to be enjoyed as a nice tune that requires no thinking to appreciate.

I suppose “House of Four Doors” begins the theme portion of the album. The previous two may be a part as well, but the connection is neither obvious nor important. This song begins some sort of journey through a series of doors behind which different types of music are played – middle ages kind of stuff, something that sounds like French high- brow orchestral music, and another that makes me picture rolling British countrysides. There may be something deeper, but this is good enough for me. The various sounds are mostly made by Mellotron, a bit of flute, and several percussive instruments I’m not astute enough to identify. No matter, it’s pleasant enough and sounds really cool with headphones. Highly recommended for those who prefer their mind in an altered state – not for me any more, but who am I to judge? And speaking of altered minds, we’re ready for what else is behind that door – what did the sign say?

““Enter in all ye who seek to find within - as the plaque said on the last door.”

“Legend of a Mind” certainly isn’t hard to figure out – “Timothy Leary’s dead; no, no, no, no, he’s outside looking in. He’ll fly his astral plane, he’ll take you trips around the bay…. ”. You get the picture. Very spaced-out vocal tracks, and one of the very few acid-trip songs you’ll ever here that features a flute, and what sounds like a wooden one Some interesting sound effects, particularly considering this was 1968 – airplane drones, enhanced echoed vocals, and plenty of Mellotron. The guitar and bass work on this song is very controlled and very appealing.

The acid trip is apparently part of the package tour for one of the doors, because after that we’re found back before another door to finish the trip. We’re back down off the colored clouds now with a pop hymn with a message about seeking and –

well, about seeking anyway.

“Voices in the Sky” is another one of those late 60s tunes about exploration of everything around us to find the answers and beauty in all that lives in nature and – bleah, silly crap. More 60s hug-the-world malarkey. Good enough for a listen today if no one is watching.

“The Best Way to Travel” is – well, “you can fly high as a kite if you want to, faster than light if you want to”. You get the picture. Nothing special except for a few interesting stereo sound effects that are clearly intended for those in the aforementioned altered states. The first few times I heard this I thought the “toot-toot” sound was from a squeaky organ petal, but now that I have the remastered CD, I realize it was intentional. An okay song, but again nothing special.

On “Visions of Paradise” the Moodies offer up those harmonic and mournful vocals that no other band seems to have mastered. This is one of the few songs where the sitar and tabla are really out front and obvious. They of course give the song a somewhat eastern feel, particularly with the flute thrown in for good measure. I’ve no idea what the band is singing about, but considering the title and the tone of the rest of the album, I can guess pretty easily.

“The Actor” is ‘hauntingly beautiful’ , a phrase used often to describe Moody Blues music, but very appropriate here. I guess this song is about two lovers who are each sitting at their respective windows on a rainy day, each thinking of the other gloomily – guess they had a spat or something, not sure. The flute is eerie and wafts in the background on this one, guitar strings are picked in a sad manner, and the keyboards are non-distinct but also brooding, along with those spaced-out harmonic vocals that can make sad people spontaneously burst into tears just from hearing them. This is the apex of the album in my opinion, and was probably a big part of the experiences that led to the formation of the Moodies sound that would be in the forefront of their next several albums.

The point of the album (I assume, hard to see clearly from all the smoke) is the identification and naming of the lost chord; and that chord is – “Om”. This little piece of important information is delivered in the form of a spoken-word poem, much as similar important information was delivered in the previous Days of Future Passed. Sounds quite dated now, but this was heady stuff in 1968.

The closing “Om” is a mystical, spiritually influenced sound with sitars and tablas and what sounds like some sort of wooden drums and flute and weird Mellotron sounds and just a hint of guitar all rolled into one. It’s a spaced-out tune, and purposely so. This is the mystical peak of the mountain where the shaman sits dispensing wisdom and enlightenment. Or something like that. Anyway, again in the context of the times, it’s a pretty good ending.

This is more mystical and psychedelic than Days of Future Passed, and somehow a bit more structured than On the Threshold of a Dream. The latter is sometimes pointed to as the suggestive drug-reference title, but I think that’s more appropriately said of In Search of the Lost Chord. The traveler’s aid for the search here is chemical (or organic) in nature, and this was a time when we all still thought enlightenment could be found there.

We were apparently wrong, but this is a pretty decent album anyway. Not the one to start with for new Moodies fans (I recommend Seventh Sojourn as a first crack at the band), but a good effort all the same. Three stars.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |

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